While it’s tempting to reduce operational expenses by delaying office updates, sooner or later, that kind of thinking comes at a price. With work itself becoming more complex and employee retention critical to maintaining a competitive advantage, companies need workspaces that not only attract employees but help them to do their jobs better. That means making smart investments in workspaces that include technology.
The workplace has a significant impact on employee health and wellbeing, productivity, and even employee engagement—all of which have a direct impact on the bottom line. Consider the following:
- Employees estimate that they lose up to 3-5 hours per day due to interruptions. These distractions and interruptions add up to roughly $588 billion a year in the U.S. alone.
- Nearly 80% of millennials say that the workplace affects their decision to stay at a job, and 47% of Gen-Xers would leave a position for one with a more innovative work environment.
- Productivity losses linked to absenteeism costs U.S. employers $1,685 per employee.
Reintroducing cubicles to your open floor plan may reduce distractions and the spread of germs, but that won’t improve productivity. Employees need workspaces that are designed to address different modes of work, and they need the flexibility to move between them.
Inc.com columnist Elizabeth Dukes advises companies to segment the office into four workspace zones: “focus areas for quiet concentration, collaborate areas for brainstorming and problem solving, learning areas for lectures or team meetings, and socialization areas for casual breaks.”
This is a step in the right direction, but it is only a step. Workplace updates like modular furniture and huddle rooms also need to be accompanied by technology that makes it easier to use those spaces and work effectively.
Steelcase offers an interesting perspective: “Offices would be better places to work if they were more like cars. New car models are embedded with technologies that make driving easier, safer and more fun . . . The car doesn’t just provide transportation anymore—it actually helps people be better drivers. So why can’t we embed technology in the office to help people feel, work and think better?”
Allan Smith, vice president, global marketing at Steelcase, says, “Today, a lot of people drive a smart car and go to work in a dumb office.” Put that way, it’s no wonder that so many employees are willing to leave an employer for one with a more attractive office.
Smart workspaces are outfitted with technology that fits the way people work. Polycom’s Michael Frendo emphasizes the need to put people at the center of the workspace. “… [T]he first step is putting in place a system to know what works for your workers. Remember, people vary not just from department to department or job title to job title, but from person to person,” he writes.
Outside of the “focus areas for quiet concentration” the other three workspace zones outlined by Dukes – areas for collaboration, learning, and socialization – are all significantly more effective when equipped with collaboration technology. Huddle and meeting rooms equipped with video conferencing allow collaboration with colleagues, partners, and customers regardless of where they are. Classrooms in businesses and schools alike are turning to technology to bring guest presenters and enriched experiences to participants. And even the fabled water cooler – the apparent source of so much innovation – is being outshone by collaboration technology.
And just as the zones are designed to fit the way employees work within the office, it’s also important that video conferencing technology is easy to use and fits within employees’ natural workflows. For example, with Polycom RealConnect Service for Office 365 and Skype for Business, users schedule a meeting as they normally would using Outlook. They invite the room as well as other attendees. At the day and time of the meeting, the meeting appears on a touch panel and the leader simply taps on the meeting for it to connect. With the Eagle Eye Director II camera, you have a true face-to-face interaction, regardless of how many people are in the room, allowing participants to focus on the conversation, not the technology.
In the future, according to Steelcase, “Technology will serve individual workers, teams and organizations. It will help people cope with the sense of overwhelm they often feel as work has intensified and the pace of change has accelerated. It will also help organizations design the kinds of spaces that workers love to work in versus have to work in.”
But you don’t have to wait for the future. In fact, waiting will come at a big cost to your organization. Instead, create engaging workspaces that your employees enjoy working in now by creating spaces that serve the employees in every kind of work they do throughout their day. And in the spaces where they are collaborating, learning or socializing, consider intuitive, integrated video conferencing solutions that enrich those experiences even further.